Indefinite expressions and accessibility hierarchy to core argument functions in a sample of Austronesian languages (and beyond)
In many languages, indefinite expressions are known to have restricted access to core argument functions. This article focuses on the accessibility hierarchy of indefinite expressions to subject and object functions in a sample of Austronesian languages. Aiming at some comparative analysis, some cross-linguistic perspectives on the differential encoding of ± definite core arguments and other types of restrictions are discussed. The questions addressed are: (i) What type of indefinite nouns have core argument function? (ii) If barred from core argument function, how are indefinite arguments circumvented? (iii) Does existence or lack of indefinite articles correlate with access to core argument function, and in what way?
In Austronesian languages, one finding is that languages with indefinite articles display fewer restrictions on the access of indefinite NPs to core argument function. Another finding is that differences of definiteness, individuation and specificity of arguments tend to be expressed by distinct domains: the noun phrase in languages with indefinite articles, the verb phrase in languages without indefinite articles (via valency, voice alternations, alignment changes), with an intermediate situation in some Micronesian languages.